The definitive ranking of chicken pieces in order from best to worst

OPINION: Everyone loves chicken, but did you know all pieces of chicken are not created equally? Allow me to explain.

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Before I begin this dissertation, I want to give a shoutout to my friend, colleague and contemporary, Michael Harriot. He explored the chicken ranking issue before, but he included things like chicken fingers, chicken nuggets, livers and gizzards, and while I don’t object to those things being ranked, we will not be doing that here, folks. 

I like to keep it simple. As I have told y’all a number of times, I am basic AF, and I am extra basic when it comes to chicken. I like to keep it simple. Either we are seasoning it up (garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper) and baking it in my 13 x 9 Pyrex covered with foil for 40 minutes followed by maybe 10-15 minutes uncovered. Or we are tossing them in olive oil, lemon pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder and putting them in the air fryer for 20 minutes on 400. 

I can fry some chicken in a cast iron skillet, too. My mama taught me that. I’m extra good at it, and I use the right combination of Dixie Fry and seasoned flour to get that skin POPPING, do you hear me? The meat is seasoned down to the bone, and that’s how we get down over here. 

I love chicken in all its variations. I eat a lot of it, and like most people, I have my favorite pieces and my least favorite pieces. We are going to break that down right now. 

Let’s start with the best. 

The chicken thigh is the best piece of chicken.

You heard me. The chicken thigh is the best piece of chicken in the entire bunch. Whenever I go somewhere and get chicken — whether it’s Popeyes, Church’s or Roscoe’s — I always ask for all thighs. Don’t bother giving me any other pieces, because I am definitely going to complain and send them back.

Chicken thighs are perfect. They have the most meat. They are tender and juicy. 

Chicken thighs are also the best piece for smothering. When you want to smother some chicken, you want to smother the pieces that are going to be worth the effort of your fork and knife, and baby, the only piece that fits the bill is the chicken thigh. Any other piece is going to involve your fingers in the eating, and nah — not with the gravy anyway. 

Chicken thighs are superior to every other piece. Please go argue with your auntie who still hasn’t quite mastered making potato salad yet because I already stopped listening five minutes ago. 

Jeff Yang knows and understands my heart. 

Chicken wings are a close second

What’s not to love about chicken wings? I would say they are the most balanced piece on the bird because there is something for everyone to love here. 

When it comes down to the flats versus drums debate, I stand firmly on the flats side, but guess what? I will tear some drums up. 

Wings have that juicy, tender meat thing going that thighs have, but wings have more bones to contend with. 

It’s OK though because those bones are small enough to chew on, and don’t act like I’m the only person who will chew on a chicken bone — or at least gnaw at it — to get all the meat off of it. It’s delicious!

Drumsticks are for children and picky adult eaters like my best friend Tiffanny.

Yeah, I said it. Drumsticks are for children. 

Drumsticks are what you give to the little humans because they can handle them easily with one hand. Their design makes them perfect for teaching little children how to effectively eat chicken. There is not much bone to deal with, and the meat is just as succulent and juicy as the meat on the chicken thigh; there just isn’t enough of it for me. 

I will always pass on drumsticks unless there is nothing else to eat. My best friend, Tiffanny, only eats drumsticks. 

When we both lived in Vegas and we were frequently getting the Popeyes Tuesday special (at the time it was $2 for two pieces of chicken and a biscuit), we were in sync because, for whatever reason, Popeyes would only let you get a leg and a thigh. They would want to charge you more if you got two thighs, so she and I would both get the meal and then just trade pieces with each other. 

It worked out. 

I don’t know any other adult besides my Tiffy who will willingly eat chicken drumsticks.

chicken pieces ranked,
(Adobe Stock Images)

You know why? Because drumsticks are for children. 

Throw chicken breasts away.

I swear the whole “chicken breasts are healthier” thing is just a marketing campaign to get people to eat dry-ass white meat chicken. No one wants white-meat chicken. It’s not delicious. It’s not even appealing. 

If I get a mixed meal at any chicken place, I am at least asking for wings, legs and thighs. I can make that work. What I can’t make work, however, are chicken breasts. 

They are just not appealing. 

KFC actually has (or had. Maybe they changed by now) this thing they call a “center breast,” which is basically all ribcage meat, and baby? Why would you do this to someone? 

Throw chicken breasts away, or give them to your puppy. 

Love yourself enough to want to eat the juicier parts of the chicken without shame. 

You can disagree with this ranking all you want, but deep down in your heart and chicken-loving soul, you know I’m right. 

It’s pretty close to barbecue season. 

Bust them chicken thighs out, please. 

Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at

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